The National Quandary

The National Quandary

Neighborhood Basketball Net Reflects On Life

A basketball net in cloudy sunshine.

ROCKPORT, MA – “I grew up in a fishing family”, said local basketball net Spalding Webshade. “My Father was a fishing net, my Grandfather was a fishing net, my siblings. All fishing nets. It would have been easy to just follow the plan that seemed to be laid out for me. But deep down inside my lace, I knew I wouldn’t be happy. I wanted to do more, to be more, you know?”

By all accounts, Spalding had a hard life. The demands of the fishing industry weighed heavily on his family. The shifts were long and the rewards were few. With a family of twelve to provide for and in a desperate attempt to make ends meet, Spalding’s Mother turned to prostitution.

“My Mother was a proud and decent woman. But when she kissed us goodbye every night and walked out the door as a pair of fishnet stockings…..that was tough.”

Despite the tribulations during his upbringing, Spalding was inspired and mesmerized by what he saw every winter.

“There would always be a little downtime after the New Year. Our boss would take us inland to get us fixed up for the coming season. We’d drive by these little ponds that were frozen over, and that’s where I would see them. Hockey players, out there in the middle of the pond. Whizzing past at high speed and shooting at the net. That’s when I knew……I wanted to be an NHL goal! Sometimes the boss would flip on the TV in the evenings. From the pile in the corner where he stored us, I could usually make out what he was watching. Every now and then I caught a few periods of an NHL game while he slept. I remember the crowds, the excitement. I’d never seen anything like that before.”

“My Mother was a proud and decent woman. But when she kissed us goodbye every night and walked out the door as a pair of fishnet stockings…..that was tough.”

Webshade set himself on course to fulfill his dreams. During High School he became a dual sport athlete, excelling not only in hockey, but as a volleyball net as well.

“A cousin of mine, Dunlop Slazenger, tried to coax me into tennis, but the additional scheduling conflicts would have hurt my hockey aspirations as well as take a negative toll on my academics. Dunlop actually made it to Wimbledon if you can believe that!”

Tennis net at Wimbledon
Spalding’s cousin competing at Wimbledon.

Webshade’s hard work paid off and he accepted a full ride scholarship at Boston College. Over the next couple of years, Webshade attracted the attention of many major scouts.

“I had reps from San Jose, Montreal, Pittsburgh, and Chicago all coming to watch me play. Everything was going my way. Boston College was ahead in the standings that year. I just felt invincible!”

But then, tragedy struck. Webshade had been called upon to help train NHL prospects, an opportunity he had the fortune to be involved in a few times during his senior year.

“I’ll never forget it”, reminisced Webshade. “There was a national team from Russia that came down to train. This was the third game that I was involved in so I was familiar with their abilities. During the second period, there was a two on one coming toward me. Instead of deking, one of them pulled up and took a slapshot. It was a hard shot, but I’ve stopped harder. The doctors told me later that it was a one in a million shot. It just hit me in the wrong spot. A complete fluke”, he said shaking his head.

The slapshot hit Webshade and tore his webbing, a career ending injury. Over the next year, he endured long and painful physiotherapy sessions, but as the opportunities dried up and the scouts stopped showing interest, Webshade slipped into depression.

“It was hard, no doubt about it. I questioned myself a lot during that time you know? A lot of “what ifs” every day. But I do believe things happen for a reason.”

Webshade attended therapy sessions and ended up meeting the girl who would later become his wife, Puma Brooks. “She made me look at things in a different way, and I owe everything to her. She brought me back from the brink.”, he said. “All it took was an understanding cougar to get me back on track!”

Spalding and Puma now enjoy their days as a pair of neighborhood basketball nets, encouraging kids and enjoying frequent pickup games.

“I love it.” Said Spalding. “Puma and I work together on opposite sides of the court and we just laugh all day. We’re talking about moving south so we can do this year-round and possibly starting a family.”

When asked about what life lessons he would offer to share, Spalding gazed into the distance and said, “If we threw all our problems into a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back. I may have not had the best cards dealt to me and life isn’t always tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.”

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